IF YOU GO
• What: The Roswell Exhibit
• Where: Southwest Florida Museum of History, 2300 Peck St. in downtown Fort Myers
• When: Debuts at 10 a.m. Saturday and continues through Friday, Aug. 12.
• Cost: $9.50 for adults, $8.50 for seniors and $4 for children.
• Hours: Museum hours are 10 a.m.-5p.m., Tuesday-Saturday and Sundays from noon-4 p.m.
• Info: Call 332-5955.
One of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the 20th century will land at the Southwest Florida Museum of History on Saturday.
For the first time since the July 2, 1947, crash of an alleged unidentified flying object, artifacts, sworn affidavits and government documents will be seen somewhere other than Roswell, N.M.
Get ready history buffs, conspiracy theorists, UFO fanatics and space cadets, because "The Roswell Exhibit" promises to be a unique close encounter of the otherworldly kind.
"This is the first time anyone has been able to use the copyrighted materials and dioramas," says Matt Johnson, the museum's general manager.
After securing the rights to the King Tut exhibit, which, like the Roswell Exhibit came through the International Museum of Texas, Johnson says he and the museum officials forged a friendly relationship.
What happened at Roswell remains an unresolved mystery to many. Johnson points out that the Roswell Museum in Roswell, N.M., is the third-most visited museum in the United States.
"We knew it would get people excited and bring people to the museum," Johnson says, adding that the exhibit has been in the works for two years. "When I came here three years ago, the biggest hurdle was getting people to know we exist. One way to do it was to set one side of the museum up for traveling exhibits."
Helena Suter, the museum's marketing manager, has creating an ambiguous buzz about the exhibit using advertising.
"People from 10 to 80 years old are interested in this," she says. "Everyone loves a good mystery."
And at the heart of this mystery is Stanton Friedman.
Friedman is a nuclear physicist who worked for McDonnell Douglas on classified, and eventually canceled, projects — think of nuclear aircraft, fission and fusion rockets and you get the picture.
He also was the civilian investigator of the Roswell Incident who then co-wrote "Crash at Corona: The Definitive Study of the Roswell Incident."
Friedman is not a "Spooky" Mulder, the FBI agent who investigated the unexplained on the TV series "X-Files." Friedman does not believe in every UFO sighting, close encounter or abduction.
Friedman says the federal government has its reasons for keeping the Roswell incident and others under wraps.
"If you look at it from a historical perspective, you can understand the cover-up," he says. "We just finished WWII, the Marshall Plan was in effect, and we were at the beginning of the Cold War," he says. "This was not something that needed to get out.
"It was a new era and recovering an extraterrestrial aircraft was an extraordinary event," he says. "It meant that man was not alone, that aliens were not perfect, the government was involved in a cover-up and it implied that someone had the technology to get here from somewhere else."
Possessing that technology, Friedman says, could have put the owner at a significant advantage both economically and militarily.
"What we've been dealing with is a cosmic Watergate," says Friedman, who believes that only some UFOs are alien spacecraft.
Throughout his investigations, Friedman says about 10 percent of adults believe that they have seen a UFO.
But Friedman has a harder time explaining other alien-related events. Among them, alien abductees, who say they have been pulled into a spacecraft and probed; physical trace cases that are like crop circles except that a UFO is seen near the ground; crop circles that are elaborate designs and often created by man; and cattle mutilations.
"Abductees don't want publicity, and they didn't want to be violated," he says.
Physical trace cases involve the actual sighting of a UFO near the ground.
"What happens is that the ground becomes burned or dried out," he says. "We've tested it and found that nothing would grow there."
Cattle mutilations also fall into Friedman's gray area. One question that's perplexed him, for example, is how can a 2,000-pound buffalo have its organs removed without any evidence of blood.
Skeptics have refuted mutilations by offering explanations such as lightning killing the animal and then scavengers such as buzzards picking away at the softest flesh, typically genitals and the rectum.
"There would still be evidence of blood," Friedman says. "And ranchers try to keep their livestock away from areas with a lot of lightning."
Johnson won't say whether he believes in little green men or their flying saucers — and it's not the museum's place to take sides.
"We're not here to prove aliens were in Roswell, N.M., but to show how a minor historical event can turn into an international phenomenon," Johnson says.